It’s one of the country’s highest honours, and two well-known local residents are receiving it for their work in preserving Black history.
The Order of Canada
Few people in Chatham-Kent don’t know or haven’t heard of Shannon and Bryan Prince. Shannon has served as the curator of the Buxton National Historic Site and Museum for the past 25 years, and Bryan is an author and researcher in the areas of slavery, abolition and the Underground Railroad.
In December, both were appointed to the Order of Canada. Established in Canada’s centennial year, 1967, the Order “honours people who make extraordinary contributions to the nation.” A dedicated advisory council, chaired by the Chief Justice of Canada, reviews nominations.
One of Many Accolades
In a recent Chatham Daily News interview, Shannon said they were both shocked when they heard the news.
“We received an email from the secretary’s office to the governor general. My first thought was that someone we know has been nominated, and they gave us as a reference. She wanted to set up a phone call, and that’s when she told us,” said Shannon to the Chatham Daily News.
Both Shannon and Bryan have many accolades thanks to their hard work over the years. In addition to contributing to research about the Underground Railroad, Shannon earned an honorary doctorate from the University of Windsor. Shannon and Bryan have also been named Citizens of the Year, received the Harriet Tubman Award from the Ontario Black History Society, and the YMCA Peace Medallion.
Preserving Black History
Shannon grew up in the house across the street from the museum and has been surrounded by her own family history her entire life. She is a sixth-generation descendant of North Buxton.
“I think that’s one of the nice things about the community because there are so many amazing stories and unknown stories that people are able to share and have that connection to their history,” she said last time we caught up with her.
Having served as the curator of the museum for 25 years, preserving history is second nature, and she recommends we all do our own version of it.
“Ask your parents and grandparents about their experiences growing up and living and working in the area. We have cell phones now, so it’s easy to record what they’re saying so you can keep their memories and stories alive,” she said.
The Next Chapter
Her investment in the Order of Canada comes on the heels of Shannon’s retirement from the Buxton National Historic Site and Museum.
After 25 years, she’s turning over the position to her niece Michelle Robbins. Watch this CBC video to learn more about Shannon’s legacy at the museum: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/windsor/buxton-museum-curator-retirement-1.7064108.
Learn more about Black history in Chatham-Kent and the Buxton National Historic Site and Museum here: https://patterncanada.ca/preserving-black-history-with-shannon-prince/, https://patternenergy.com/gaining-perspective-on-black-history/.